Arizona Sunshine 2

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Arizona Sunshine 2 review
Jordan Helsley


Lessons learned poorly in the apocalypse

Arizona Sunshine is a name that's fairly synonymous with VR gaming. When the hardware was in its infancy, the first game in the series came along and showed some of what the tech had to offer, albeit with a fairly basic and repetitive gameplay loop. The arcade-style fun and VR immersion were there enough, but the prospect of seven years of lessons learned for the sequel lead to a fair level of excitement. I'm happy to report that lessons were indeed learned, but worried they may have been the wrong ones.

Reshooting their shot

For better or worse, the entire experience for me was encapsulated in the first five minutes of the game's tutorial. Arizona Sunshine 2 starts with your character waking up in his trailer, having made a home out here in his new zombie-filled world. After making your way outside, and proving just how high the "verbosity" slider has been increased, the shooting tutorial starts.

Instead of keeping the arcade-inspired "touch the gun to your ammo pouch to reload" mechanic, they've opted to switch to a more realistic system: press a button to drop the magazine, grab a new one, slot it into the receiver, and pull the slide. Not only is it conceptually confusing based on the series' admittedly shallow history, it also just doesn't work very well. Whether the tracking is too tight or the calibration is off, more of my magazines failed to lock into their guns on first try than didn't. It led to many deaths and much frustration, and that fear was planted in me during my very first reload. It does make the experience more tense and it does theoretically increase your immersion by imitating realism, but it makes the experience less fun, especially considering it severely handicaps your skills to dual wield, a main feature of the first game. Once you get used to it the problem is minimized, but it would have benefited from at least the option for arcade reloading.

Talking (to the) dead

The other area of immediate concern, which popped up in the community even after the very first trailer, is the character's personality and banter. Put simply: I didn't find it problematic. It’s another example of "character in a dangerous situation not taking things seriously," but that is entirely the point. Our hero has been living in this new world for who knows how long, long enough to develop and fortify a home of sorts, and doing so without another living creature to interact with. That's enough to drive anyone at least a little mental. Overall I felt the existence of these quips and monologues to be believable, and they were used sparingly enough to avoid becoming grating. If I did have a problem with the dialogue it rests in the writing, another element showcased in that five-minute window.

During the shooting gallery, a very-clearly-in-distress helicopter appears and ultimately crashes. During its fiery, tumultuous descent, your character calls out to it for help, just as someone stranded on an island might to a helicopter that's not clearly in distress. It's a short moment (that somehow goes on too long) but it made a confusing and off putting first impression. The rest of the game has a few moments akin to this, but I must admit this was the most egregious example.

Dogs eating zombs

Once you pass the tutorial, and get into the game proper, you begin to see the things that make Arizona Sunshine 2 an improvement on its predecessor, and possibly the biggest of those is your new four-legged companion Buddy. Buddy's a good boy, you can pet him, scratch him, play fetch with him, and he's a helpful (sometimes necessary) combat companion. Not only can he take down a zombie on his own, you don't have to spend a ton of time worrying about his health. The game mixes things up at times with enemies that require the use of Buddy to be defeated, and some that are immune to his attacks as well. More could have been done to make Buddy's inclusion more integral to the experience, but the touches as they are work well enough.

Combat has seen the most love here, and rightfully so. The introduction of melee weapons is a great one, as they feel impactful and suitably rip apart the undead thanks to their new mutilation system. A large step was taken backwards, though, in the inventory. Holstering weapons and trying to swap effectively can be infuriating at times, as dropped weapons turn into physics objects, and can end up across the map after an accidental swap. There's also no melee weapon holster, though durability means you're not likely to keep one for too long anyway.

Up close and at distance the zombies look pretty good, especially as you start to tear away at them and get good looks at the gore and viscera. The environments look less good, at least on the Quest 3. It's not much of an exaggeration to say certain environments and textures were outright distracting. It is disappointing, because it's easy to get into a groove playing this game where the faults are much less apparent otherwise.

Take on the horde

Once you've completed your relatively cliched story mission, or before, the game's horde mode can make for a fun co-op experience with forthcoming updates, but again feels more limited than its predecessor as is. The map feels small, which combined with up to four players and the new reload mechanic can make for a cluttered experience that's admittedly not without its thrills. If the developer is going to come through on its promise of post-launch support, the horde mode should be the primary focus, as it is the thinnest portion of the game, and could relatively easily realize its potential with more environments.

Arizona Sunshine 2 is the epitome of taking the good with the bad. Shooting feels good at the expense of frustrating reload and weapon management mechanics. The visuals are decently improved, though not groundbreaking, at the cost of a surprisingly linear experience. The list goes on, so it's not hard to feel disappointed as a fan of the first game. Truth is, nothing Arizona Sunshine 2 does well can't be found in other games, oftentimes more well executed. It may not be overly offensive in any of its executions, but it doesn't do much to separate itself from its predecessor or contemporaries.

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fun score


Believable and engaging protagonist, solid gunplay


Several problems of the series remain, new reload mechanic is a misfire, and lack of considered game mechanics.